Orange County Doctor Pleads Guilty to Federal Drug Charge for Illegally Prescribing Over 120,000 Opioid Pills Over Six-Year Span

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FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Department of Justice Building is pictured

          LOS ANGELES – An Orange County physician pleaded guilty today to a federal criminal charge for conspiring to illegally prescribe more than 120,000 opioid pills to 18 different people over a six-year span without a legitimate medical purpose in exchange for cash and insurance payments.

          Dr. Dzung Ahn Pham, 61, of Tustin, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, a crime that carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

          According to his plea agreement, Pham, who owned Irvine Village Urgent Care, conspired with Jennifer Thaoyen Nguyen, 51, of Irvine, to illegally distribute controlled substances.

          Nguyen, a licensed pharmacist who operated the Irvine-based Bristol Pharmacy, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. She is scheduled to enter her guilty plea to the felony charge on October 14.

          Pham admitted in his plea agreement that from January 2013 to December 2018, he wrote prescriptions for approximately 53,693 oxycodone pills, approximately 68,795 hydrocodone pills, and approximately 29,286 pills of amphetamine salts. The prescriptions were filled using 18 different patient names. Pham admitted that he acted with the intent to distribute the drugs outside the course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose.

          On four occasions in November and December of 2017, Pham wrote prescriptions for a patient – identified in court papers as “S.C.” – whom he knew was a drug addict for a total of 704 pills of 30 mg of oxycodone. On two occasions in August 2018, Pham wrote prescriptions in the name of S.C.’s wife, who was not Pham’s patient, never saw Pham for any medical appointment, and was not aware Pham was issuing a prescription in her name for her husband’s use.

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          Pham knew that many other pharmacies would not fill his prescriptions because they did not have a legitimate medical purpose, according to court documents. So, he directed his patients to Nguyen’s pharmacy, according to Nguyen’s plea agreement. There, Nguyen accepted payments from Pham’s patients and she subsequently gave Pham these payments from his patients for “office visits” even though she knew these patients did not have a legitimate office visit with Pham prior to her filling the prescription, her plea agreement states.

          Nguyen admitted in her plea agreement to filling prescriptions for eight individuals outside the usual course of professional medical practice and without a legitimate medical purpose.

          Nguyen further admitted that, from May 2017 to November 2018, she filled Pham-written prescriptions for a total of approximately 160 pills of oxycodone, approximately 1,810 pills of hydrocodone, and approximately 450 pills of amphetamine salts.

          Both Pham and Nguyen admitted in their plea agreements to abusing their positions of trust as a physician and pharmacist, respectively.

          United States District Judge Josephine L. Staton scheduled a January 6, 2023 sentencing hearing for Pham.

          The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad, the Irvine Police Department, and IRS Criminal Investigation investigated this matter.

          Assistant United States Attorneys Brett A. Sagel and Gregory W. Staples of the Santa Ana Branch Office are prosecuting this case.